Here's where you peruse WACer trip reports and post your own for everyone to see. Remember: Never let the truth interfere with a good story!
|TrailConditions||Some blowdown, nice|
|Mailed to WacList|| |
(Same report with photos: http://www.nwhikers.net/forums/viewtopic.php?p=817589)|
Last year I found a description of Sloan Peak and the corkscrew route and knew I had to climb her. Then after looking into it, it turned out that the road to the trailhead was closed. So this spring I thought I'd see if they had fixed it. Not so, and I pushed this back to some other year. Then I read a trip report here about the North Fork Sauk River road and I knew I had to go climb her. So when Heather asked if I was interested in a Saturday hike, I replied that the only thing I had been thinking of was Sloan. She liked the idea and embraced it enthusiastically. So we were set. Time to read up some more. 6000Feet of elevation gain in 6 miles? Round-trip times of 12 hours? Wading through rivers? Is this really something I can and want to take on? But it was too late. I had planted the seed and had to follow through.
So Saturday comes and we meet at 5:30am. The road up to the trailhead is in very good condition, just some insignificant potholes. We get there around 7:10 and we're hiking at 7:20. A quick start is needed since the trailhead is the world's gathering place of all flying bugs imaginable. According to the register at the trailhead, two teams climbed Sloan last week, but no one got here before us today. We have our boots packed, I'm wearing sandals and Heather old sneakers. We're expecting to have to wade through Sauk somewhere before we get to the real trail. The first part is just an old forest road and makes for easy progress.
At the first of the three arms of Sauk we have to cross we find a nice thick log a little downstream. This turns out to be rather nice. Flagging leads us to the next arm and again some nice logs. There are even steps sawed out to make the walking easier. And then we get to the main channel. This is where we expected to have to wade through. Up to our waist, judging by some picture we had found. Not this year. There is a huge log-jam with lots of options to cross. We pick the big log only to find out that the root-ball doesn't reach the shore and is at least 10 feet above the water. Luckily some other logs we can easily step onto make it all the way to the other side.
The trail briefly turns into a mud gully and we're afraid we still have some crossing to do. But this is only temporary and we quickly hide our temporary footwear in exchange for our boots. Here the trail becomes a real trail. And starts to gain elevation quick. There are plenty of blowdowns but none are presenting a serious problem. Then we arrived to the waterfall with again a log to cross. This one also had some steps cut into it, but it was still scary slippery. This is the first of three crossings of the Cougar Creek. The next time we come to the creek, it looks like we will have to wade through it. But some 100' upstream you can see another big log that makes crossing easy. And the bushwhacking to it is no problem. The third time we get to it we can hardly see how to get to it. The trail here is heavily overgrown. Some rock-hopping gets us to the other side.
We now get to a more open forest and the first patch of snow reveals itself. We also get our first glimpse of the summit. We get to a flatter area with patches of snow, little creeks flowing this way and that and lots of avalanche debris. We wonder if this is the meadows the reports talk about. With no continuing trails apparent, we just look for a slope that will allow us to gain the ridge. What we should have done is aim right and stay very close to the stream. This will get you to the trail which is obscured by some trees from where we are. The typical slope climbing with veggy belay gets us to the ridge and we can see the snow slopes that should get us to the ridge that separates us from the glacier. Here we also find parts of the trail again. The snow looks steep, so we don helmets, crampons and ice-axes. Even though the sun is very warm, the snow is still firm enough that the crampons provide welcome grip.
When we're finally on the ridge, we can see the glacier and summit. The glacier looks rather benign from this angle. I know this can be deceiving and there are enough contour changes that can all hide nasty crevasses. So we rope up and Heather lets me take the lead. I love it! My first glacier lead. I get to pick the route, evaluate snow bridges and, very importantly, dictate the tempo. My legs are feeling all that elevation gain up to now, and frequent stops to look for the appropriate route are very welcome. What seems to be the right route from the ridge turns out to be a diversion when I get higher up. I choose a more direct approach that will get us high on the glacier by crossing a crevasse on a snow bridge. When I get to it I poke it a bit and it is at least 2 feet thick in the middle. It feels solid and I cross it quickly. Heather comes next and has no problems either. From here we make it to the downward crest of another crevasse that will lead to another snow bridge. When I get closer it is clear that this is not a bridge, but a connecting snow dam. Below us is a crevasse on one side and a glacier that drops off dramatically on the other side. This gets us to the upper portion of the glacier. The only obstacle left is some recent rockfall that requires Heather to take off her crampons. It's level enough here, so they are really optional anyway.
Back on the rock and we drop all our glacier gear. Just light packs for the remainder of the trip. The trail along the ledges that winds around the top of the mountain beckons us. Dramatic drops and stunning views all along this trail makes this very interesting. And before long we find the obvious gully. In this case, it is an obvious gully. Like the reports say, good handholds on the left side. Heather rushes ahead because she promised herself that she can have her donut on the summit. I'm taking it slower since my legs are definitely feeling it. From this gully leads another gully and some random scrambling to the summit ridge. Then the move around the big block, some more scrambling and we're on the summit. The views are stunning. There's no haze and we can see from Rainier to Baker. Soon we get the map out and start playing 'what peak is that'.
We can't stay too long because we're almost out of water. Down climbing is a lot easier that I thought it would be. Still, constant caution is required to not kick any rocks loose that can roll onto your partner. And then it is back to roping up and following our tracks back to the other side of the glacier. The bridges are still solid and we make good progress. Once we're clear of all the crevasses, I can hear a small stream. We quickly head to it and drink our fill of the wonderfully cold water. From here we can see the top part of the climber's trail and we decide to follow that back down. Not really the best decision, since it takes us to steep snow and not nearly as easy an option as the way we came up. But it does allow us to find where the trail is hidden from the meadows.
Now it is just a quick hike out and back to the car and the hungrily awaiting mosquito gathering. An absolutely wonderful day with great company (bugs excluded).
12 miles, 6000' elevation gain.
4 hours to the glacier, 6.5 hours to the summit, 11 hours car-to-car